Learn the Lingo before you go-go!

Learn the lingo before you go-go!

There’s just nothing quite like that buzz of excitement when you finally decide to take the plunge and go for it.

This is true of many decisions you might make in life, but it is CERTAINLY true when you decide to take the plunge and book your trip to a foreign land.

There are always so many things to sort out in preparation for your journey. Here are a few of the items you just might have to consider before you set out on the adventure of your lifetime;

passport applications, vaccinations (sometimes!), choosing flights, finding accommodation, comparing different car hire firms, booking taxis to and from the airports, etc., etc.

Then someone says: “Can you speak the language?”

“The language?”, you laugh.  “No problem, because everyone tells me they all speak English out there, so “No Problemo!”


It certainly well may be true that thousands, nay millions of people in non-English speaking countries learn English and thousands of people speak English as a second language extremely well. (I know this because I have taught many of them English myself!)

Also, you may have the good fortune of coinciding with some of those very people on the trip of your lifetime. That would be great!

Or is it really that great?

Is it really that smart?

I’m not talking about taking a 5-year degree course in the language of the country you want to visit for a fortnight, perhaps once in your life. Even I admit that might be a bit excessive, but hey…


But just think how smart it would be to turn up at the place of your dreams with a little bit of the local language. It might open up opportunities and adventures that otherwise you would never have had access to.

The main benefit of taking a little time out to memorise one or two simple phrases in another language is that as it shows respect to your host nation, it will generally incur a reciprocal sentiment. That is you are more likely to command a lot of respect after giving a little first.

What a wonderful ambience of mutual respect this simple act could create!

You see, everyone loves their language. It’s theirs. The same way we love our language and think it’s so cool, so do the speakers of other languages. So imagine what a sign of respect to others when they realise you have taken the time and made some effort to say one or two easy phrases in their own language.

Locals will be delighted by that at least you have had enough respect to have learned a little of what they feel to be their own wonderful language.


Have a bit of dignity and at least have a try!

This will also mean that the first words out of your mouth will NOT be the dreaded, “Do you speak English?”.

In some cultures, this may even seem a little impolite to begin every communication with this, as immediately you may be deemed as assuming that your interlocutors should speak English, and if they don’t, then it is some type of failure on their part.  

Really, it’s not that hard, and the benefits are great.

You might think that is hard t learn but believe me, this one little linguistic tip is worth its weight in gold.


Only a few weeks ago I was dining out in my adopted home town here in Spain when an obviously northern European family entered the restaurant and began to take up their seats at a big table.

The waiter rushed over, eager to help, but before he could speak, the mother said with a bit of confidence,

“Lo siento pero no hablamos español muy bien. Queremos aprender.”

(I’m sorry but we don’t speak Spanish very well. We want to learn.)

I actually saw the linguistic floodgates open, as the waiter continued to attend the family in English, but with greater gusto and enthusiasm than usual.

The husband then insisted on trying to order a bottle of wine in broken Spanish, to the waiter’s great delight, as the man said;

“Una botella de rosada”   (A bottle of white fish)

instead of

“una botella de rosado”  (A bottle of rosé wine)

He had ordered a bottle of white fish, instead of a bottle of rosé wine, which the waiter found really funny, as you can imagine. But because the family had shown an interest in the language, the waiter ended up teaching the gentleman how to order rosé wine correctly in Spanish. So that was useful!

Great fun was had by all and it was smiles all round.


Language learning has become so much easier with the Internet nowadays. You will be able to find out easily how to say one or two simple phrases and to memorise them before you embark on your adventure.

Below are five of the most useful phrases you could need, or that will help you navigate your way through a different linguistic environment, apart from the standard; “Good Morning / Good Evening / Good Night” which are a MUST to learn, if only just to lend a smidgeon of politeness to any basic linguistic exchange.

Basic of the Basic:

Good Morning / Good evening/ Good Night/

Please / Thank you/ I’m sorry / Excuse me

Numbers: 1-10

No one could deny that in any culture, those few words or phrases are the basis of all politeness and civics.

You can easily do some research for all those words by simply typing into Google Search the word or expression you need and then the language after; e.g.  “Good morning in Spanish”. There is even an audio icon to click which will let you hear the word in the language of your choice!

It couldn’t be easier.

Nowadays we have language at our fingertips. Literally.  

Stepping it up to the next level

However, if you are feeling a little more adventurous after getting your head around those few expressions, you might be feeling inspired.

Consider looking into the next few concepts before you leave on your adventure.

Imagine; this could make the difference between a lukewarm, superficial holiday and the possibility of having real communication with the locals who will most likely be delighted with your noble attempts at their language.

  1. I’m sorry but I don’t speak XXX very well.
  2. I want XXX
  3. Where is XXX?
  4. I’m going to XXX
  5. I need XXX
  6. How much is it?

You may feel that these few phrases are a bit too simplistic and perhaps not very polite.

Well, you don’t really have to worry too much about being polite grammatically but rather think about being polite by attempting to use even the basics of your host country’s language.

You have something like a ‘traveller’s pass’ and are not required to come up with the same ‘grammatically correct’ language as other native speakers do.

This new type of ‘politeness’ will get you further because any non-English speaker will probably think you are great for even having bothered yourself to learn a few basics of their wonderful language.

(Remember I mentioned above that everyone thinks their own language is wonderful.)

Basic is good

Focus on basics because BASIC IS GOOD.

Don’t worry about being polite and asking something equivalent to:  

“The top of the morning to you, Good Fellow! I was just wondering if it would be at all possible to have a little peek at that handbag which you’ve got so delightfully displayed in your shop window.”

All of that could so easily be reduced to;

“Good Morning. I want to look at that.”  (while pointing energetically at some item in the window display)


Imagine you are thinking of visiting a country where Spanish is spoken.

In Spanish: Play the audio for the pronunciation

Buenos Días = Good Morning

Buenas Tardes = Good Evening

Buenas Noches= Good Evening (entering) Good Night (leaving)

Por favor = Please

Gracias= Thank You

Lo siento = I’m sorry

Perdona = Excuse me

I’m sorry but I don’t speak Spanish very well. = Lo siento. No hablo español muy bien

I want some …bread/wine/tomatoes, please.
Quiero pan / vino / tomates

Where is…  station / airport please?
¿Dónde está la estación / aeropuerto, por favor

I’m going to the… station/ airpor

Voy a la estación / aeropuerto 

I need….a hotel = Necesito un hotel

How much is it? = ¿ Cuanto es?

Imagine how smart it would be to turn up at the place of your dreams with a little bit of the local language. It might open up opportunities and adventures that otherwise you would never have had access to.

You probably have some idea of what you want/need to say …transport, car hire, train, camping….

Get yourself prepared and find out, the easy way, how to make a bit of basic communication when you are in that country.

I assure you that locals will warm to you much more readily (and that can only be good) when they know you are interested in them, their language and their culture.

It makes so much sense!

I’m suggesting that you take a little time out before your trip to get a few basic phrases under your belt.

You will see in no time, the advantages of a bit of forward planning in linguistic matters.  

Learn a bit of the Lingo and you’ll be laughing!

I would like to thank Marie Ryan, for contributing this excellent post. You can find out more about learning a language at her blog, A simple life put in simple language
– living and loving language


4 Replies to “Learn the Lingo before you go-go!”

  1. Great advice, I couldn’t agree more. But if you are not linguistically inclined, somebody once suggested taking photos of all common objects on your phone, which can help a great deal if nobody speaks English.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Roland,
        Yes, there’s a “Google Translate App” that you can point at the written word in selected languages and it will translate the text into your language.
        I suppose what you need is to arm yourself with as many strategies and techniques as you can, to cover all eventualities!
        As long as you have fun and some REAL communication!
        Regards. Marie.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Great idea Cherry!
      That would at least give you a whole range of vocabulary you would literally ‘have at your fingertips’.
      I suppose most people carry a phone with a camera incorporated nowadays!
      Thanks for reading!
      Regards. Marie.

      Liked by 1 person

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